Black Caps’ return looks likely

How it used to be: Cricket fans at a Black Caps test in 2008 PICTURE: OTAGO DAILY TIMES

Expect Queenstown to again host full-blown international cricket from the summer after next.

Queenstown’s been starved of top-class play since the spectacular one-day international between New Zealand and the West Indies on New Year’s Day, 2014.

That’s because the Events Centre ground was then deemed to be unsuitable for international cricket.

The local council, however, stumped up $640,000 to upgrade the ground, and this week it was announced it will host nine under-19 Cricket World Cup fixtures next January/February.

Queenstown’s not been allocated any full internationals this summer.

But that seems likely to change from the summer of 2018/19, though the Black Caps’ playing schedule hasn’t been released yet.

In an interview yesterday, NZ Cricket public affairs manager Richard Boock said: “We’re looking forward to international cricket returning to Queenstown and looking forward to Queenstown tendering for international games.

“It’s been a rich part of our international programmes in the past, and a really desirable location that broadcasts well overseas.

“Certainly the idea of international cricket coming back to Queenstown is an exciting one for NZ Cricket, as well as Central Otago people.”

Also supportive is local Ian Paterson, who’s NZ Cricket’s liaison officer for visiting international sides.

“At least we’re back in the hunt,” he says.

“I know from my involvement with international teams that they love coming to Queenstown.”

He adds that the ground’s been rated amongst the 10 most scenic in the world.

Meanwhile, local former first-class cricketer Russell Mawhinney says he’s very excited about the upcoming U19 CWC games.

“Eight of the nine games will be televised, and those pictures will be going to an audience of over two billion people, mostly in the subcontinent, so I think it is great for town and can only help promote us to markets like India.”

Mawhinney’s also organising a second edition of the Queenstown Schools Cricket Carnival in January.

He was initially worried International Cricket Council event organisers wanted to use ‘pitch 1’, by the nets, for practice sessions, which would have “scuppered our carnival”, but they now want to work in with them.

“It will be fantastic for our young guys to be able to watch these players, bowl to them in the nets and rub shoulders with them. From the ICC perspective, we provide a natural pool of keen cricketers and families who will want to watch the World Cup matches, so we are like rent-a-crowd, really.”